Not long after, in the autumn of 1826, Théodore left for the Koninklijke Academie (Royal Academy) in Antwerp, which was run by painter Mattheus Van Bree. Along with the academy in Amsterdam, this academy topped the hierarchy of art schools in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, as specified in the aforementioned Royal Decree. Antwerp enjoyed a high status during that period, because the Southern Netherlands boasted a rich artistic past with such luminaries as Rubens, Jordaens and Van Dyck, whereas the Northern Netherlands had yet to induct Rembrandt, let alone Vermeer into its hall of fame.
Yet like many other artists, Van Bree also worked on commission for anyone who would pay him: he painted, for instance, the enthusiastic welcome for Napoleon in Amsterdam, but also a scene from the Siege of Leiden, which went down exceptionally well with King William I.
Under Van Bree, the Antwerp academy became an incubator for artistic talents, particularly in the field of historical painting which, in the new country of Belgium, was to become hugely popular. Capitalizing on this, in 1828 Théodore began two years of studies in Paris.